When it comes to the discussion about housing and older people, the conversation is often focused on downsizing, passing on the family home to children or choices around retirement housing.
However, an increasing number of older South Australians are facing housing insecurity and, in some cases, the heart-breaking reality of becoming homeless.
Single women aged over 60 are becoming increasingly vulnerable to housing stress and insecurity and while the factors leading to homelessness are often complex, consistent trends have been emerging with this group in our community.
Typically women tend to live longer than men and often underestimate their life expectancy. As a result, they are not making adequate provisions for retirement and are often outliving their superannuation.
In addition to this, low income, casual employment and time out of the workforce raising families can contribute to financial strain later in life. According to the Association of Super Funds of Australia, taking two or more years out of the workforce to raise children can leave women short-changed on superannuation by $50,000 at retirement age.
Add into this equation the death of a partner, a relationship breakdown, job loss or change in health circumstances and it suddenly results in a situation of serious financial uncertainty.
While women are especially at risk, housing insecurity is a broader problem and we are seeing a large increase in older people, generally, who do not have safe and affordable places to live. More and more people are retiring with mortgages and the pool of suitable housing for people who are ageing is shrinking.
There is also a small but growing number of older people being forced into the private rental market, which is often financially unsuitable for older people with low incomes. Private rental housing is also generally not adaptable. A lot of private rentals are not fit or secure enough to meet the physical needs of people as they age, further compounding the issue.
With the proportion of older people in South Australia increasing at a faster rate than most other Australian capital cities, we urgently need a long-term plan to address the escalating issue.